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Sports Then and Now

Ottis Anderson: Forgotten Member of the 10,000-Yard Club

Posted on October 31, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Ottis Anderson

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month for November is the only eligible member of the NFL’s prestigious 10,000-yard rushing club who is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Though Ottis Anderson put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers during his 14-year career and was MVP of Super Bowl XXV, he is often overlooked in discussions about the best running backs in NFL history.

In many ways, Anderson had two distinct careers during his time in the NFL.

The first was as a superstar running back for mediocre squads during eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

In the first game of his rookie season in 1979, Anderson set the tone for his early career by rushing for 193 yards in a 22-21 loss to the defending NFC Champion Dallas Cowboys.  He went on to gain over 100 yards in nine games as a rookie and finished third in the NFL with 1,605 yards.

Over his first six seasons Anderson was among the top rushers in the NFL. He gained over 1,000 yards and ranked among the top 10 rushers in the NFL in five of his first seasons. The only season he was denied 1,000 yards was in 1982 when a player’s strike limited the season to nine games.

During those six seasons, St. Louis reached the playoffs only during the 1982 campaign and was easily defeated by Green Bay 41-16.

Injuries finally began to take a toll on Anderson in 1985 as he was limited to nine games and 479 yards rushing.

After gaining 156 yards in the first four games of the 1986 season for the Cardinals, Anderson was traded to the New York Giants and carried the ball just 24 times the remainder of the season as the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.

Anderson carried the ball just twice in 1987 and 65 times in 1988 as the former All-Pro looked to be at the end of his career.

However, in 1989 the Giants needed a new feature back and turned to a familiar face.

Though no longer the explosive back he had been in St. Louis, Anderson was still capable of gobbling up yardage in the smash-mouth attack of head coach Bill Parcells.

Anderson was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year after gaining 1,023 yards and 14 touchdowns to help the Giants win the NFC East Championship with a 12-4 record.

The following season, Anderson was again the leading rusher on the team as he gained 784 yards and scored 11 touchdowns to help lead the Giants to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl Championship.

In Super Bowl XXV, Anderson rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown to help the Giants defeat the Buffalo Bills.

He played sparingly over the next two seasons and finished his career with 10,273 yards and 81 touchdowns.

At the time of his retirement, Anderson was one of only 8th players in NFL history to crack the 10,000-yards rushing mark. He still is the 24th leading rusher of all-time. Out of the 12 members of the 10,000-yard club who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, Anderson is the only one without a bust in Canton.

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